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Big Revolution - Twitter's free speech seesaw

Greetings from Paris, where I'm working for a couple of days. Here's today's Big Revolution pour vous
May 16 · Issue #80 · View online
Big Revolution
Greetings from Paris, where I’m working for a couple of days. Here’s today’s Big Revolution pour vous

Big things you need to know today
- Social networks are getting tougher on trolls: Twitter says it’s going to hide tweets that demonstrate antisocial behaviour (more on that below), while Facebook says it closed 583 million fake accounts in first three months of this year. And the Wall Street Journal reports Facebook’s content moderation budget is now “hundreds of millions of dollars” [paywalled].
- Tensions are rising between the UK’s parliament and Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg “has no plans to meet with the committee or travel to the UK at the present time,” said the company in a letter sent three days after the deadline MPs had given them to respond to a demand he travel to meet them. Sassy, and also a little concerning, as big tech companies increasingly gain the kind of power and influence once reserved for nation states.
- A smartphone… but on a blockchain? Apparently so. The HTC Exodus will be built to make cryptocurrency trading easy on phones. “The company plans to create a native blockchain network with all Exodus phones acting as nodes to facilitate cryptocurrency trading among the phone users,” reports TNW’s Hard Fork. Whether this is really useful or just a desperate attempt at differentiation remains to be seen.
- Check out Microsoft’s enormous new Surface Hub 2. This 50.5-inch super-hi-res tablet (if you can call it a tablet) is the kind of thing your boss buys and hangs on their office wall to impress clients.
- Tweetbot fans can breathe a sigh of relief. The popular iOS Twitter app looked threatened by upcoming API changes, but developer Paul Haddad is taking a punt that all will work out fine, and has launched an all new Tweetbot 3. As with version 2, you’ll have to pay out again – this isn’t a free upgrade.
The big thought
Credit: Marten Bjork on Unsplash
Twitter’s free speech seesaw
Twitter has come a long way since it described itself as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” That was six years ago, and the idea of giving people unfettered access to say what they want isn’t now quite as appealing as it once was.
The company has struggled for years now to keep a lid on rampant abuse, trolling and spam on its platform. Its latest attempt, which seems to have been given a warm welcome by commentators, will hide anti-social tweets behind a ‘see more tweets’ button.
“Among the signals Twitter will use: whether you tweet at large numbers of accounts you don’t follow, how often you’re blocked by people you interact with, whether you created many accounts from a single IP address, and whether your account is closely related to others that have violated its terms of service.”
This sounds like a good idea, but I do wonder how many legitimate contributions to important debates will get inadvertently buried as a result of the changes. How many people will be misidentified as trolls?
Earlier this week we heard how Google News was accidentally prioritising BBC News stories over other publishers far too often. That shows how the more you automate decision-making over what content you display, the more likely you are to experience unexpected effects.
Twitter will no doubt adjust its algorithm if any unintended consequences emerge, but this shows just how much of a balancing act it faces. It’s gone from being 'the free speech wing of the free speech party’ to having to figure out just how much free speech is 'just enough’ free speech.
One big read
Revealed: Ecuador spent millions on spy operation for Julian Assange
The Guardian takes a look at the increasingly fraught relationship between Ecuador and the ‘house guest’ at its embassy in London. Also check out this Q&A about why Ecuador has lost patience and wants Assange out.
One big tweet
Sounds obvious, but so many people don’t do this. Aside from the threading thing, it’s just polite not to include someone else’s words they didn’t expect to be forwarded on.
When someone says "send me a separate intro email that i can forward" in response to an intro request, don't put the intro text into your reply ☠️

Send a new email w just the intro request/context (and different subject line so it doesn't get threaded in gmail) 👏

5:29 AM - 16 May 2018
That’s all for today...
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